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The Importance of Stretching
by Paul Geisler

As avid golfers, we all know that hitting a golf ball is an extremely athletic activity which has several physical requirements. But, did you know that over 70% of all golfers sustain golfing related injuries that cause them to miss significant playing time? A proven way to lower both the incidence and severity of some injuries is to include a regular warm-up routine as part of every training and playing session. Professional athletes in all sports take anywhere from 1-3 hours to warm up and ready their bodies for the upcoming physical challenge; yet most amateur golfers neglect this important step. It amazes me when I see golfers get to the course 15 minutes before their tee time, perform 3 quick stretches, take 5 practice swings at 100%, then tee off with a driver and they're off. Golfers who fit this scenario are asking for trouble, and inevitably take 9 holes to get going "going." Taking 15-30 minutes to properly warm-up will also help improve performance by readying the joints, muscles, and tendons that are responsible for producing the golf swing.

There are three phases to a proper warm-up program, but only two really apply to the game of golf. The three phases are: cardiovascular exercise, flexibility or stretching, and functional exercises. Since golf is not considered an aerobic activity, the cardiovascular phase of warming up does not really need to be included when you are playing golf. This leaves the golfer with 2 very important warm-up phases which must address the golfer's entire body.

Like your golf swing, stretching can be done properly, and improperly. The best way to make improvements in your flexibility is to do a regular stretching program 2-4 times a day for your arms, legs and trunk; and remember to stretch before all vigorous physical activity. Here are some general guidelines that will help you improve flexibility of your golf muscles:

  1. Never bounce while stretching, hold each stretch in a statis position and allow the muscle to relax.

  2. Hold each stretch position for 6-10 seconds, release the tension, and repeat 4-5 times.

  3. Stretching should not be painful, if it is you are going too far, too fast. You should feel a mildly uncomfortable stretch.

  4. Progress with your flexibility at your own pace; don't compete with others or your "glory days."

    Following 10-15 minutes of stretching, the muscles and joints that are going to perform the work need to be gradually introduced to that activity. This phase of warming up is probably the most neglected, and the most important. Can you picture Michael Jordan spending 15 minutes stretching, and then getting up and immediately performing a full speed, full effort signature MJ slam dunk? Probably not. Therefore, a golfer should start with the easiest of swings and gradually work his/her way to the hardest, most demanding of swings. The following guidelines will help you gradually warm-up: 1) Start with shortest clubs, and gradually work towards the driver, 2) begin with very slow swings and progress to full speed, and 3) start with one-quarter swings and gradually build to full length swings. Taking the time and patience necessary to follow this routine will warm you up gradually and safely, and also give you the opportunity to work on other technical; aspects of your swing (i.e., swing plane, balance, etc.)

    The whole warm-up process should take you between 30-45 minutes; and if done properly, will help you to minimize potential injuries and improve your upcoming rounds of golf/practice sessions

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